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The most important tool in the kitchen

(Updated with latest USDA info on pork)

Ask any chef to pick their favorite tool in the kitchen and there’s a good chance he or she will lovingly look toward their biggest knife. But that favorite kitchen tool and the most important one are probably quite different.

That’s because the most important tool in the kitchen, at least when it comes to your health and safety, is one that many folks don’t even have: a cooking thermometer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tens of millions of Americans become ill due to foodborne pathogens every year. And we’re not just talking about an upset stomach here; thousands of people die each year from them, the CDC says.

If you routinely make food for an elderly person, a child or a person with a weakened immune system, it’s even more vital to be sure your foods are as safe as possible for consumption.

Two of the biggest factors contributing to foodborne illnesses are cross-contamination and not cooking meats, poultry and fish to a safe temperature.

The first can be controlled by thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing work surfaces and tools that have touched raw meat, poultry and fish. The second is where the thermometer comes in.

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You can make this: Capital Grille’s Citrus-glazed salmon

I had the privilege recently to cook with Derek Venutolo, executive chef at the Capital Grille in South Coast Plaza.

It’s true that the Capital Grille offers some amazing steaks (I highly recommend the Kona-crusted sirloin), but if you’re into fish, the restaurant does that superbly, too.

In this case, Venutolo demonstrated how to make the restaurant’s excellent Seared Citrus Glazed Salmon. And here’s where you come in: You can actually make this dish quite easily at home.

Venutolo showed on video how to make this main course, in addition to the glaze and tasty sides of sauteed vegetables. I wrote about the experience and included the Capital Grille’s step-by-step recipe for The Orange County Register. Hit that link to check out the video demo. Click this  Citrus-glazed salmon recipe link for steps on how to make it yourself.

I should add that the citrus glaze itself is so good you might want to make that alone any time. In addition to being wonderful brushed on fish and fowl, you can try adding it to iced tea for a sweet kick.

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Pan-roasted chicken and other tasty stuff

Hey y’all,  sorry I’ve been away from the blog for a while — it’s certainly not for lack of cooking.

The past couple of weeks have been a blur, as I’ve been writing recipes for my Food 101 column for The Orange County Register and working on the Register’s latest video shoot for our O.C. Chefs at Home cooking series.

(As some of you know, my “real job” is Automotive Editor for the Register.)

I’ll have another recipe posting here next week, but in the meantime I invite you to try my latest from the Food 101 series: Pan-roasted chicken.

The recipe involves a little more technique, but the results are so worth it. The recipe can be made in about half an hour, uses only one pan, and in addition to some of the most amazing chicken you’ve had, you’ll also learn how to make a wine-butter reduction sauce. Need I say more?

Happy eating,

-Matt

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Last-minute Thanksgiving survival guide

Here it is upon us once again and all too soon: Thanksgiving.

You know what that means? Well of course it signals several helpings of turkey and a tryptophan-induced coma in front of the television soon after.  It also means that those other holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and  Chrismukkah — are just a blink away.

As things in the kitchen move into high gear, it’s good to slow down and remember to enjoy the process. If you can think of what you are doing as an expression of love instead of a load of work, it will make the day that much more enjoyable.

It’s also a good time to remind about basic kitchen safety of the fowl variety. Undercooked turkey, as we all know, does not make for good eats or safe eats. Here are some tips and facts to remember if you are cooking the bird yourself in the oven:

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Yes, I’m still cooking!

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks, but fear not, my fellow foodies: I Want To Cook is still cooking up a storm.

While I haven’t posted a recipe here in a couple of weeks (sorry!), I’ve been toiling away with developing some others and writing another one of my food columns for The Orange County Register, Food 101.

(As some of you know, my full-time job is Automotive Editor for the O.C. Register, where I get to play with some fine cars for a living.)

I also recently shot a video with Daily Grill chef Phil Kastel, above left, who demonstrated how to make grilled artichokes. They are beyond delicious, and I highly recommend trying them before artichokes go out of season. Click on the image above to check out the video.

Regarding the next recipe here, hold tight for another couple of days. I promise you this week’s recipe will be worth the wait, and will easily satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth.

Here’s a hint: It involves plenty of whipped cream.

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How to make caramelized onions

Hello and I’m glad you found I Want To Cook! If you’re looking for the how-to on making caramelized onions that was featured in today’s Orange County Register newspaper, you’ll find it right HERE.

Be sure to check out the site and try some other recipes, too!

Cheers,

Matt

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Does McCormick’s new product “inspire” you to cook?

One of my co-workers, Nancy Luna — aka, “Fast Food Maven” — tossed me a product sample she received recently in her mail that caused me to raise an eyebrow: a sample from McCormick’s new line of Recipe Inspirations spice packets.

What they are, essentially, are about a quarter of an ounce total of six pre-measured herbs and spices, with a detachable recipe card on the back of the package on how to incorporate them into a meal.

Among the offerings are Apple & Sage Pork Chops, Garlic-Lime Chicken Fajitas and Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes.

The Recipe Inspirations line launched in January, and each packet costs two bucks. According to the spice-maker’s head honcho, they are aimed at consumers short on time — and who apparently don’t keep a stock of spices or recipes on hand.

Now I’ve used McCormick spices for years, and one part of me likes the idea and convenience of this concept, especially the notion that it can get folks cooking,  introduce them to new flavors, and (hopefully) enable them to add that flavor with herbs and spices instead of, say, half a stick of lard.

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